February can be a strange month in Milwaukee music. Traditionally, bookers are still dealing with the occasional show-free Friday or Saturday that’s known to plague venues between late December and most of January. However, recent years have seen some notable annual events going over very well during the shortest month of the year, such as Mitten Fest, All Messed Up, and, now, the recently-announced Arte Para Todos. In addition to all those happenings, this particular February also finds an array of other concerts of both the local and national varieties granting some entertainment to help distract the city from the still-so-shitty winter conditions outside. Honestly, there are easily 25 good-to-great shows this month, but here are Milwaukee Record’s 12 favorite. For more event options, consult our comprehensive calendar.
Tuesday, February 3
Wild Child + Animals In Human Attire, James Tillman at Mad Planet
Austin’s own indie darlings Wild Child logs thousands of tour miles annually. That work ethic and inarguable musical talent have landed the band on lineups of top-tier festivals such as Cochella and Austin City Limits Festival. Endearingly crazy locals Animals In Human Attire and James Tillman will open.
Wednesday, February 4
Yonatan Gat + Soup Moat, The Fatty Acids at Cocoon Room
Yonatan Gat is a Tel Aviv and New York City project with roots in legendary Israeli live band Monotix (known for playing their instruments while being carried by audiences). Add in Milwaukee punkers Soup Moat, which is on the cusp of releasing its Enjoy Your Hobbies seven-inch, and scene favorites The Fatty Acids, and this is a mid-week show for the ages. All-ages, to be specific.
Saturday, February 7
Mittenfest 2015 at Burnhearts
In its first two years, Burnhearts’ annual Mitten Fest served as one of the few non-Packers-related bright spots in the dark, cold, cruel, and seemingly endless quarter-year marathon simply known as “winter” in Milwaukee. No matter the forecast, throngs of people eagerly flocked to a two-block stretch on Bay View’s Potter Avenue to partake in the drinking of fine beer and bourbon barrel aged old fashioneds, the eating of festival foods, the donation of clothing and canned goods, and outdoor entertainment usually reserved for warmer times. Mitten Fest 2015 will offer Milwaukee the same brief celebratory respite from the season’s harshness. This year’s stacked local lineup features three acts from our 25 best Milwaukee albums of 2014 list: Canopies, Greatest Lakes, Towers, and Sin Bad. DJ Chris Schulist will spin between sets.
Marilyn Manson at The Rave
Love him or hate him (and you probably hate him), you have to respect Marilyn Manson’s longevity. The shock-rocker managed to survive asinine allegations that he was responsible for pretty much every school shooting of the late ’90s and early 2000s, the fall of nu metal, and the world becoming largely desensitized to his antics. Though his name doesn’t tote the same weight it did 15 years ago, his name is still able to make a few ears perk up. The puffy, increasingly Nic Cage-resembling, occasional Sons Of Anarchy cast member will make for a weird and nostalgic Mitten Fest chaser when he takes the stage at Marcus Center For The Performing Arts. Just fucking with you. There’s no way this wasn’t happening at The Rave.
Friday, February 13
The B-52s at Northern Lights Theater
Famous for “Love Shack,” “Rock Lobster,” and probably even some other songs, The B-52s have been consistently supplying party tunes since 1976. Though some members are in their sixties now, the quasi-legendary pop culture footnote is still alive and well.
Nikki Lane + Jonny Fritz, Hugh Bob (solo) at Cactus Club
Nashville Americana force Nikki Lane has been no stranger to Wisconsin of late. She played in Milwaukee last year, and was a huge part of Mile Of Music’s successful second year last August. She’s back again, as is Hugh Bob, who is playing his first Milwaukee show since moving to Nashville. Jonny Fritz will play between the pair of Tennessee artists for whom our state has professed its love.
All Messed Up V at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn (also February 14)
For five years now, All Messed Up has stressed collaboration between unfamiliar musicians from all parts of the city and with various levels of musical experience. Billed as “The Final” year of the event (at least under the leadership of Holy Shit!’s Anthony Schwader), 64 participants were assembled into 16 bands that will play original songs, one cover, and other refreshing weirdness over the course of two nights at Linneman’s. It’s unlikely Space Heater, Flab Wall, Spaceboob, Djork, and all the other bands will last beyond Valentine’s Day, but there have been some lasting collaborations that were spawned at All Messed Up, and bands (like The Olives, for example) that are still together today.
Saturday, February 14
The Midwest Beat + The Olives at Circle-A Cafe
Speaking of The Olives, the All Messed Up success story is always a sure bet for a fun night by way of their collection of lively, infectiously upbeat one- and two-minute songs about boyfriends having boyfriends, Facebook friendship terminations, The Office references, and haunted shit. Add in the timeless, genre-jumping dudes in The Midwest Beat, and it’s a bill you and 29 other people who can cram into Circle-A Cafe won’t want to miss.
Sunday, February 15
Sleater-Kinney + Lizzo at The Riverside Theater
Nearly nine years after going on “indefinite hiatus,” Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein, and Janet Weiss have reformed the incalculably influential and deeply awesome Sleater-Kinney. Not only that, but they’ve released their first new album in 10 years, No Cities To Love. Not only that, but they’re playing a sold-out show at Riverside Theater (moved from Turner Hall). The show will be Sleater-Kinney’s first Milwaukee appearance since a Globe gig back in 2000. YES.
Wednesday, February 18
Heavy Hand + The Rutabega, Body Futures at Frank’s Power Plant
From February 20-23, a flurry of Midwestern rock bands will blow into Terrace Bay Inn & Suites in Escanaba, Michigan for PRF Thundersnow 2015, which is essentially a weekend of music and debauchery that’s confined to an Upper Peninsula hotel during definitively non-peak season. Before Thundersnow strikes, three participants—Heavy Hand, Body Futures, and Indiana-based The Rutabega—will play bar none the best Milwaukee show of that Wednesday night. Wednesday is the new Thursday, and Thursday is basically the weekend.
Wednesday, February 25
The Growlers at Cactus Club
Remember that thing we said about Wednesday being the new Thursday and Thursday basically being the weekend? The Growlers’ mid-week Cactus Club appearance only bolsters the claim. Since forming in 2006, the self-dubbed Beach Goth band from Orange County has seen its popularity swell, granting them late show appearances and ample touring (including a jaunt with Jaill a couple years back). This is an uncharacteristically intimate show for a band on the cusp of being a household name in indie circles. If you plan to go and haven’t bought your tickets yet, you should probably get on that. A (likely local) opener will also play.
Friday, February 27 – Sunday, March 1
Arte Para Todos at various venues
Saving the best for last, Arte Para Todos will ensure March comes in like a lion, at least in regard to entertainment. The inaugural benefit will bring 70 bands/rappers and 15 artists to 15 venues in three neighborhoods over the course of three days (Friday, February 27 through Sunday, March 1). The all-local lineup is goddamn unbelievable, and 100 percent of the very affordable cover ($7/show, $12/full day, and $20 weekend) goes to benefit three Milwaukee public school art programs. If you can see an eclectic mix of many of the city’s best acts and help fund area art programs, it’s a no-brainer.